Land the Thought!: Tips for Sight-Reading and Speaking with Notes

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Hey Friends,

This is the first of a two-part series on how to approach sight-reading (for actors) or reading from your notes in a presentation (for public speakers). For both performers and presenters, this is a key skill. There is nothing worse than getting lost in your script and losing your connection to the audience. So here are some tips for how to stay present with your audience, even as you have to sometimes reference the written words in front of you. For the sake of simplicity, from here on out I’m going to refer to this as sight-reading, even if as a public speaker you have seen your notes before.

The most important tip to sight-reading in a way that the audience feels included is to make sure that you ‘land’ the end of each phrase on your audience. What I mean by that is that when you reach the last words in a phrase, look up from your notes/script, make eye contact or look in the direction of someone in the audience (or your scene partner if you have one), and speak those words to the audience. You can denote phrases by looking at where the punctuation is in the script, or thinking about where the punctuation would be in your phrasing of your thoughts and ideas. This way, you are looking at the audience throughout as you speak— giving them the sense that this is for them, and that it’s important that they hear it. If you look back at your notes before you’ve finished the phrase, it looks like you’re not concerned with how the audience feels or thinks about what you’re saying.

If you are using a script, you can actually mark each piece of punctuation and practice looking up and landing the last few words before. If you are going off of more informal notes, practice speaking your notes out loud as much as possible, and begin to get a feel for where you tend to naturally phrase your thoughts. Be diligent about ending your phrases on your audience, rather than ending your phrases by looking at your notes to try to see what the next thing is you want to say before you’re done with the thought you’re in.

You can try this now— pick up a newspaper, or a magazine article, or a book, a script, or even your notes from your presentation. If it’s an actual piece of text, mark where all the punctuation is. Then practice reading it aloud and looking up at a target at the end of each phrase. It will probably feel strange at first, but once you start to get the hang of it on your own, try it with a friend and get their feedback. I imagine you will find that when you are regularly able to check in with your audience, you will feel more connected to them and to what you’re trying to convey to them.

Let us know how it goes!

Christine

Stretch and Sound!

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Hello Friends!

In the last part of our Autumn Voice Review we have a sweet little stretch and sound sequence to wake up the buzz while working on the knots. You might want a mat, towel, blanket etc. to get nice and comfy. Let us know how it goes for you!

In other news, our schedules are shifting around so you will still be seeing posts each week but the times will vary a bit more. Hope this adds a little pumpkin spice to your autumn ; )

Head into Autumn with all the excitement of transition!

“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer. ” – Helen Hunt Jackson

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine

Support Yourself!

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Hey friends,

This week as part of our Autumn review series, we’ve got a quick sequence to kick-start your breath support. If you’re newer to breath support, we’ve got two great sequences that break it down for you here and here. This is a nice review sequence to make sure you’re being specific and to get your support muscles warm. It’s great for drama school students heading back into voice class or for professional actors and public speakers who need a quick warm up.

We’re still taking recommendations on what you would like to review, especially from our drama school students. Feel free to send us an email or to leave a comment below.

Support yourself and take good care,

Christine and Lindsay

Autumn Voice Review: Just Breathe!

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Me and Mom on the beach, just before the 2nd gallop.

Hello Friends!

We’ll be putting together an audiolab exercise for breath work as part of this series but in the meantime I thought I’d share a recent experience that reminded me how important the simple act of breathing is in any intense situation.

Now, of course working with the breath is a piece of advice Christine and I give a lot, in many different contexts. However there’s nothing like a visceral moment of experience to prevent advice from going stale. In traditional communication settings, working with the breath is part of my routine and at this point it flows pretty well. During this most recent experience I found myself needing my breath to affirm presence and keep my head clear, as you do in standard communication activities, but the situation was unique in that failing to do so could have ended with me being launched off a horse and into the ocean.

In my Olympian post a few weeks ago I touched on my past experience as a member of the United States Pony Club, which I absolutely loved. Being around horses and riding are among the things that make me the happiest in this world. So while spending some time with family in Scotland this past week my mom and I decided to look into doing a ride on the beach. We found a lovely equestrian center that was able to book us in and headed over for an early evening ride. It was exactly the kind of place I like, down to earth; we got to brush our horses and our guide Ed, was hilarious and no-nonsense. My mom was assigned a very noble steed named Snowy and I rode Ed’s beautiful chestnut mare called Charm. As we headed into the scenic Scottish countryside Ed put us through a few tests, trotting and cantering, evidently we passed because what followed was two hours of the most intense riding I had done in YEARS. Important note about my mom, it had been even longer since she’d ridden like this and she handled it like a champion.

When I say intense what I’m specifically talking about is galloping, which for those of you unfamiliar with riding, is the fastest gait of a horse where all four feet come off the ground together with each forward movement. It’s thrilling, challenging, and something I hadn’t done in quite a while. We galloped through the forests, through golden fields and finally across the beach. It was during a walking break on the beach that I realized although I was having fun and being amazed by the scenery, I was breathing in this shallow, protective way. Charm wanted to go (she is very fast) and I was fighting her because I was afraid to fully release into the moment and be there. This was not the kind of rider I had been in my younger days. In fact I can’t really ever remember feeling timid when it came to racing through fields until that moment. So I thought, this is a communication issue. If I can let my breath drop and feel grounded to connect with Charm, I can be present and let go of the fear to fully enjoy this exceptional experience. This was critical point because Ed had told us the horses go even faster when they turn to head back down the beach, it was hard to imagine that but would have been far more foolish to not take that information seriously. So I put my heels down (riderspeak), took a long, steady breath in through my nose, picked up my reins and seemed to feel Charm say “Buckle-up Buttercup!”

It was a fantastic gallop down the beach. If any of you are Lord of the Rings fans, I’ll put it like this: it was like I was a full-on Rider of Rohan with the strings music blasting in the background as I charged to save Middle Earth. The feelings of freedom and exhilaration were intoxicating. The ride was easily one of the best in my life and I was able to enjoy it because I got myself to breathe with connection.

All this is to say, autumn is a time of returning to endeavors, starting something new, gearing up for hard work, it’s a time of transition. Don’t breathe shallowly through it; find your breath and your pace. Maybe even try a gallop! You might surprise yourself.

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine